To fully appreciate “Jeepers Creepers 2” I believe one must first endure a lot of really, really bad Teen Slashers. Otherwise the film may seem a bit…underwhelming. “JC 2” is the sequel to 2001’s enjoyable “Jeepers Creepers”, about a supernatural killer that preys on passing motorists in a small town. In the original, a sister and brother team had to take on the winged creature, with bloody results. Although the siblings managed to expose the creeper’s killing spree (it had been killing for centuries), the creeper managed to survive, although one of the siblings didn’t.
“JC 2” picks up days after the events of the original, with the creeper still on the loose. Only now the screenplay informs us that the creeper (Jonathan Breck) only kills every 23 years for 23 days, after which it has to go back into hibernation, or some such. After the creeper snatches up his young son on day 22, farmer Jack Taggart (Ray Wise) is determined to get revenge. With day 23 arriving, the creeper has found new targets: a busload of highschoolers on their way home from a basketball game. After the creeper sabotages their ride, the kids are trapped in the open country road, with darkness fast approaching and no help in sight. Can farmer Taggart save them in time?
If memory serves, the inclusion of the creeper’s 23-year timetable is a new addition. Although the film gets jumpstarted with the death of Taggart’s son, the real exposition is provided via convenient radio broadcasts and Salva giving one of the kids on the bus psychic powers, allowing the teen to learn about the creeper via past victim Darry (Justin Long, in a cameo). Much of “JC2” is played straightforward, with the bus falling victim to the Creeper’s throwing stars forged out of human bone and skin. In short order, the adults are (literally) picked off by the winged killer, who then returns for the kids.
As expected, there are cliques within the students, including the white and black jocks, the nerds, and the cheerleaders. King Jock is played by Eric Nenninger, who Salva uses to inject racial and homophobic tension into the film. Not that it matters. You would think having a busload of teens being hunted by a giant, invincible killing machine would be enough tension. The characters themselves are pretty standard stuff. Eric Nenninger’s King Jock eventually gets a bit grating, and Nicki Lynn Aycox as the sudden psychic cheerleader provides the film with some unintentional laughs. As one character points out, one minute Aycox is jumping up and down with pom-poms and the next she’s Miss Cleo. Also, despite having gone through just two very confusing visions, Minxie sure makes some very grand proclamations about the Creeper. Why, it’s like she read the screenplay or something!
The treat of “JC2” is Ray Wise, whose character has surprisingly little screentime. Much of the film gets taken up with the Creeper and his many assaults on the kids. In an amusing twist, the Creeper has developed a sense of humor, if not overt flirtatious behavior. Does licking glass with your tongue in a seductive manner qualify as flirting? Well probably not, especially since you plan on eating the young boys you’re “selecting”.
Watching “JC 2” one gets the feeling that writer/director Victor Salva is trying to test himself, first with the sudden shift in narrative tone. Most of the sequel’s 100 minutes are filled with tension and suspense, as the kids try different ways to avoid the Creeper’s continued attacks on their bus. It’s like Salva is trying to find out how many ways he can keep the story moving and interesting and still not move away from the lone stranded bus locale. As a result, almost 70% of the film takes place inside the tight confines of — and the dangerous ground around — the bus.
Of course any self-test Salva might have been under eventually gives way to exterior action sequences. Which leads us to the film’s post-hour mark, where the teen characters lose all semblance of intelligence and does things they aren’t supposed to. They not only run out of the bus when they shouldn’t, but they also stay in the bus when they shouldn’t. With the dropping of the IQ, the action quotient gets a big jump — at about the same time Taggart and his remaining son finally show up at the scene.
Salva makes Taggart’s grudge against the Creeper an obvious parallel to Ahab and his quest for Moby Dick. Hell, Taggart even outfits a giant harpoon onto his truck and is willing to risk everything, even his remaining son, to kill the elusive whale — er, supernatural creature. Of course making Taggart and the Creeper’s throwdown taking place just a short day after the death of Taggart’s son sort of diminishes much of the seething, everlasting anger Taggart is supposed to be going through. Salva might have done better to eject the 23-day angle completely, if just to give Taggart more time to soak in his loss and provide him with credible time to outfit his truck into a Creeper-killing vehicle. One day seems just a tad quick.
“JC 2” is by no means a great film, but it is a good one, especially if you’ve been disappointed by a lot of Teen Slashers out there right now. It’s probably too straightforward for its own good, and the middle, when the Creeper calmly takes its time assaulting the bus, might be a bit too slow for the teen crowd. Still, the film has enough action, suspense, and good special effects to satisfy most people.
Victor Salva (director) / Victor Salva (screenplay)
CAST: Ray Wise …. Jack Taggart
Jonathan Breck …. The Creeper
Eric Nenninger …. Scott Braddock
Nicki Lynn Aycox …. Minxie Hayes
Travis Schiffner …. Izzy Bohen